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Father Lacombe statue vandalized

RCMP seek tips on suspect

This story originally referenced "hundreds of unmarked graves" at a former residential school site in B.C., namely the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. This has been revised to "hundreds of potential unmarked graves" to reflect the ongoing investigation at that school. As of May 27, 2024, findings from the investigation are consistent with the presence of unmarked burials, but have yet to confirm said presence.

St. Albert police hope the public can help them find out who vandalized the Father Albert Lacombe statue last week.

The St. Albert RCMP got a report May 29 that the Father Albert Lacombe statue at 7 St. Vital Ave. had been vandalized.

Photos taken by St. Albert resident Victor Fernmeyer at about 9 a.m. May 29 show that someone had splattered red or brown paint and painted red or brown hand-prints on the statue and its base. The words “No Rest for the Wicked” had also been written on the statue’s base.

Andrew Ehrkamp, spokesperson for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, said parish members first noticed the vandalism early on May 29, and suspect it happened early that morning or late on May 28. The crime was not captured by security cameras in the area. Parish officials cleaned the paint and writing off the statue later that week.

“Any time something like this happens, it’s extremely distressing, not only for the clergy but for the parish community of St. Albert,” Ehrkamp said.

St. Albert RCMP Cpl. Morgan Kyle asked anyone with information or video footage of this crime to come forward with it.

“At this time, we do not have any suspects,” she said, nor did they have a clear idea as to a possible motive for this crime.


Fernmeyer theorized that the vandalism may have been linked to Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples, specifically the residential school system.

“People are still hurt,” he said.

Red hand-prints have for many years been used to spread awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. They have also come to symbolize the thousands of students who died in Canada’s residential school system. After hundreds of potential unmarked graves were discovered at a former residential school site in B.C. in 2021, many churches and religious monuments across Canada were marked by hand-prints in protest, including a statue of Pope John Paul II in Edmonton.

While best known locally as the founder of St. Albert, Lacombe also played a direct role in the establishment and operation of Canada’s residential school system.

Historian Raymond Huel notes that while Lacombe was very trusted by the Cree and Blackfoot communities (who called him Kamiyoatchakwêt/“the noble soul” and Aahsosskitsipahpiwa/“the good heart”, respectively) and cared greatly for their welfare, he also felt they had to be assimilated into white capitalistic society — as did many of his fellow missionaries at the time. Lacombe helped Bishop Grandin write the proposal to establish Catholic-run vocational schools for Plains Indian children in around 1882-1884 and was the founding principal of the St. Joseph’s Industrial School at Dunbow, Alta., from 1884-1885.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada flagged the Grandin proposal as a key moment in the creation of Canada’s residential school system — a system that sought to wipe out Indigenous culture and led to the deaths of at least 6,000 students, include 12 at St. Joseph’s Industrial.

The Lacombe statue was unveiled in 1929 before some 5,000 people, The Black Robe’s Vision reports. It stands less than two metres from the spot where, in 1861, Bishop Alexandre Taché planted a sapling in the snow and told Lacombe to establish the community of St. Albert. The Gazette archives do not hold any records of the statue being vandalised in the last 24 years, but do note that it underwent major restoration work in 2000.

Lacombe’s body is buried in the St. Albert Parish cemetery.

Anyone with information on this crime is asked to call St. Albert RCMP at 780-458-7700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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